Hidden behind shops in Greenwich is a garden surviving on the willpower and donations of the community.

Neighbours got together three years ago to clear what was the car park for the former Royal Hill police station after rubbish started to build up.

From there, the Royal Hill Community Garden has evolved into what users say is a vital space for families.

The garden, unlawfully built on council land, now faces being demolished under a new scheme to build houses for adults with learning difficulties.

Families and residents using the gardens are preparing to campaign – for a third time – to save the green space from being concreted over.

Tony Othen, who lives overlooking the garden, plans to seek a compromise to keep the site open.

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He said: “It was just a police station car park – but about three years ago when the police station decided they didn’t want the car park and vacated the station this was left blank.

“After about six months I organised people to come and pick up the litter and that stimulated the community into saying ‘let’s do something here’.

“What you now see is a place where everything has been donated by the community. There is no committee, no masterplan, it’s just the community coming in and doing what they want. It’s triggered generosity you would not believe.”

Pub-goers donated scaffolding, police donated ex-cell benches and families donate their time to plant and grow plants and trees.

Scouts fulfil gardening badges, cooks can plant and collect herbs and families bring kids to the space.

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However, there is no permission for the garden to exist.

The council is planning to close the garden, fence it off and undertake a feasibility study into developing the land as a replacement for the nearby Ashburnham Grove care home.

Mr Othen said: “Let’s compromise. Let’s have a care home and a therapeutic garden, the community come in and look after the garden and the adults with difficulties have something to benefit from. We will be seeking a deferral.”

The council are set to make the decision on Wednesday night. In the meantime, families have rallied to support the garden – with 50 people turning out to an action day over the weekend.

Mum-of-three Mary Kate Connolly said families have been devastated by the latest development proposals.

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“It’s a green space where we can let kids be involved. There is a cross-section of the community because this has just happened organically,” she said.

“It would be a massive loss. It’s a unique space in Greenwich, there’s nowhere else like it. We live in a two-bed flat with no garden – this is just vital.”

As she speaks, two of Anne Marie’s kids run to find a hose and start watering the plants.

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“It’s important that this exists. This brings out the best in them,” Mary Kate said.

“It’s taken this number of years to be mature – this is not the type of thing that will be able to be replicated.

“Yes, we are here illegally but it was lying derelict. If we didn’t move in and do something useful, there was no other equivalent space and I doubt there would be either.”

The garden has already survived two attempts to be cleared, including an attempt for a couple of houses in 2017.

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The garden is on top of an infill railway cutting, 50ft above a railway line – and the council says vital investigations must be undertaken to “inform the design” of its new scheme – bringing with it an imminent closure.

According to a report: “The council has undertaken some early feasibility and the outcome of this design concept analysis shows that accommodation for adults with learning disabilities can be built on the site and the previous concerns regarding design can be addressed, such that a successful project can be developed.

“In order to develop the scheme, the site needs to be cleared of the existing unlawful use and a fence erected to clearly identify and protect the site boundary.”